4 fun behind-the-scenes tours of favorite Chicago places

Ever wonder what goes on behind the closed doors of your favorite places in Chicago? It’s so fun to be in the know, and peeking behind the curtain can give you a whole new perspective.  Here are a few favorite behind-the-scenes tours that give you and your family the unique insight that comes with special access to areas where the general public is not allowed.


Behind the Scenes in Wild Reef at the Shedd Aquarium


Walking through the Wild Reef with sharks swimming overhead and rays cruising underfoot is always an incredible experience, but you can get a whole new and different perspective of the 400,000-gallon shark habitat when you see it from above and behind the scenes. On this one hour Shark Feeding Tour, guests get to see how the aquarists feed the sharks, complete with different dinner bells. You may even get to assist, too. My family is still talking about our experience that was nearly two years ago.


If sharks aren’t your thing but your family wants to know more about what goes on behind the tanks at the Shedd, check out the Behind-the-Scenes Tour that is 50 minutes and includes visits to the animal healthcare center where you’ll see how preventive care keeps the animals healthy, see where the animals’ meals are prepared and more.


Ages: At least 10 years old


Cost: Shark Feeding Tour: $89.95 for adults; $80.95 for children; $54.00 for members; Behind-the-Scenes: $55.95 for guests 12 and older, $46.95 for guests 10-11. $20 for members.


Chicago Theatre Marquee Tour


We all know the famous “C-H-I-C-A-G-O” marquee, but there are even more captivating sights to see inside the Chicago Theatre. Have a little performer who wants to be center stage? They will love the Chicago Theatre Marquee Tour, which includes an opportunity to stand on the famous Chicago Theatre stage and check out the dressing rooms including walls signed by many amazing performers. Adults will love learning about the architecture and the history of this Windy City icon that opened in 1921 and is a national landmark.


Ages: Open to all ages, adult supervision required for children under 16


Cost: $15 for adults, $10 for children 12 & under.


WOW! Tour at the Museum of Science and Industry


For most Chicago families, it wouldn’t be a trip to the Museum of Science and Industry without visits to favorite exhibits such as the Coal Mine, the baby chicks and The Great Train Story. You may think you know all about them, but the Wow! Tour gives you new insight and information. It’s appropriately named, as chances are good that you’ll say “wow” several times on this one hour tour that takes you to places you’ve never seen before, including where the trains are repaired and the back of ToyMaker 3000.


The kids get excited about sounding the whistle on the Coal Mine exhibit and working the flaps on the 727 suspended overhead. Walking through some offices of MSI staff started a conversation with my daughter about different kinds of STEM careers.


Ages: All


Cost: The Wow! Tour is included in various ticket packages, the cheapest of which is Explorer I, which is $33.95 for adults, $21.95 for kids 3-11.


Brookfield Zoo Junior Reptile Keeper


Your house may feel like a zoo some days, but have you or your kids ever wondered what it’s like to be a zookeeper? Brookfield Zoo gives visitors a sneak peek at what zookeepers do with their Backstage Adventures. Many experiences are available for kids 12 and older, but there are options for little ones also, including the Junior Reptile Keeper adventure that run the reptilian gamut, from small lizards and snakes to Orinoco crocodiles. It gives kids a chance to check out areas of the exhibits accessible only to zookeepers and feed some of the reptiles in residence.


Ages: 8 and up. Children must be accompanied by a non-paying adult chaperone.


Cost: $325 Member, $375 Nonmember


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